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Putin calls in the lawyers to prevent Arctic oil and gas war

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In an attempt to head off mounting tension over the exploitation of oil, gas, and minerals in the Arctic, Russian premier Vladimir Putin has called on the five states in the region -- Russia, Norway, Canada, Denmark and the U.S. -- to resolve competing territorial claims in accordance with international law.

The Arctic zone is home to vast amounts of untapped natural resources, which have become increasingly accessible in recent years as a result of global warming and the ice cap melting.

But as the resources have become more accessible, the competition over who owns what has escalated -- and has resembled little more than a in recent years.

Speaking to a conference in Moscow, Putin acknowledged the Arctic contains "billions of barrels of oil" but called for the preservation of its "unique nature and fragile ecosystem".

"We should maintain the Arctic as a region for peace and co-operation," he said.

"If you stand alone you can't survive in the Arctic. Nature makes people and states to help each other."

He publicly endorsed a treaty signed last week by Norwegian premier Jens Stoltenberg and the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, which ended a bitter 40-year dispute over their countries' maritime borders in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean and will allow for new exploration for natural resources in the region.

"That was a very good example of how to achieve a compromise acceptable to both sides," Putin said.

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